So I am trying to get into the spirit of writing more. Since, you know, I just quit my job.
I decided to sign up for the Reverb10 project. Partly because it sounded interesting on its own and partly because I needed a pinch of inspiration and a healthy dose of motivation.
I’m a few days behind, so I’ll pick up where we are, and move forward; hopefully to circle back to the first two prompts:
December 3 – Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.
Last year, I could have pinpointed those pivotal moments — charmed, magical moments — because there were so many of them that made the mere act of living a heightened experience. I was, quite literally, living a peak experience for months on end.
But this year has been the delta; incremental change after years of living on the brink. And by that I do not mean living recklessly, rather I mean living stretched to my max; pulled to my limits; pushed to my very end, and then snapped back like bodies colliding, or objects at the end of a tether.
So tonight, when I found myself in the basement of K-Mart in Astor Place, somewhat frantically shopping for Christmas decorations to replace the ones I had lost in my divorce, it suddenly hit me.
I am divorced.
I lost everything.
The big ring; and the fancy car; and all of that dark, clubby, nautical New England furniture; and the paintings that had been flown in from the Czech Republic as wedding gifts; and that coveted title of Mrs — I had lost it all. I’d lost my staplers; and my spatulas; and the set of dishes I’d had since college; my wedding china; and the dogs I’d raised since they were puppies.
Everything — large and small — gone, forever, lost to the apartment set up as a replica of my marital home, staged not in Tribeca but in the East Nineties. And my things — from the smallest Christmas ornament that I’d purchased in the basement of K-Mart at Astor Place back when I was a grad student; to the big bulky bedroom set from Bob’s Discount Furniture in Stamford, back when Bob’s was all we could afford — they were all stuck in limbo there.
I hadn’t been back to K-Mart in Astor Place in years — in some part because I’d finished my graduate work at NYU in 2006, and hadn’t had much of a need to be in that neighborhood. And in large part because a Bed Bath & Beyond had moved into Tribeca, where I’d long lived, and K-Mart had seemed less and less appealing as an option.
But I was downtown tonight, so to K-Mart I went.
The basement at K-Mart has no light of which to speak; and while it is not the kind of place where things are haphazardly stuffed into shelves or cubbies, I would not say it is “clean” by any stretch of the imagination. It is also strangely organized, with harsh chemicals right next to the foodstuffs, and the sporting goods and the hardware abut each other. The “seasonal” section is large, and well-marked, and everyone who has ever lived below 14th St. knows exactly where to go to find the finest in Jaclyn Smith holidayware.
I took the creaky escalators down into the pit. As I descended, a strange feeling settled on me, a kind of deja vu. As if I knew I had been there before for the very same purpose, but my emotions were so numb from so many years of chaos that I didn’t have a nerve left for a weird flicker of pain or longing, or even the patience for a wisp of wistfulness. I had no one left to please; no husband at home; no parents or inlaws who would visit. I was only buying the goods for my annual Christmas party, which hadn’t happened last year because I’d been in the process of moving.
I got off the escalator.
It wasn’t that the fact of my divorce and the changes in my life had never occurred to me — trust me — they had, I thought. But amidst the colorful glass balls and shiny shards of tinsel, walking among things that were at once familiar and totally foreign, I suppose it finally hit me, two years later, that my life as a wife had finally met its bitter end.
Oh my God. I’m divorced. When did this happen; how did this happen? What have I been doing? Where am I? Why did I just give away all of my things and walk?
I let out an audible gasp. It was as if my mind had known what had been going on in my life for the last eighteen months, two years, and had even been able to string together a lot of words that sounded semi-intelligent about the whole process that had been happening to me, and around me. But the whole of me — the real, conscious, breathing, living soul of me — had somehow chosen to insulate me from the process that I’d been living. And instead, I’d bumped and bumbled along, not really feeling any of it; not really living any of it.
I suppose I could tell you how alive I felt crossing the Queensborough Bridge during the New York City Marathon, but this year, I was so focused on finishing at a certain pace, I was oblivious to the parts of the experience that people who aren’t runners might want to read about. I wish I could tell you about hiking in the Sierras over Thanksgiving, and reaching some sort of Zen — but we were snowed in, and I didn’t have boots with proper treads, so the thought of even attempting a hike with incorrect footgear left me terrified that my 2011 marathoning dreams would be dashed by a broken bone.
I wish I had one of those stories to tell.
Much of the struggle in divorcing, I have found, is not the mechanics of the divorce itself (which is by and large, the easy part). Rather, the hard part is what comes after the crash. So when the chaos and crisis and utter nonsense of actually getting one’s life back up and running has been going on for some time, and suddenly, after all that time spent fixing it up, the engine is finally firing on all cylinders, I think, the hard part is letting go, and living a little, and realizing that the vehicle is road-worthy, and street-legal again.
And that it’s okay to get out and go.
So there, in the basement of K-Mart, Astor Place, I found the woman I had been years ago, and we snapped back into each other like opposite ends of a rubber-band, shot off like a rocket then settling, finally, into one perfect, flexible whole. I was alive; I was living; I was divorced; I was okay.
I am happy; I am whole. And I am just now becoming fully aware of the gravity of the things that have been happening to me, and around me. And I feel fully alive to be free; fully alive to feel the loss and the lingering pain; and the bits and pieces of the things that I haven’t fully felt.
Blue light special; Aisle 13: Me.